For this week’s highlighted resource, I would like to take the chance to highlight two resources that I feel come together nicely to initiate discussions about the relationship between memory, history, harm, education, and justice. The first is the book Curating Difficult Knowledge: Violent Pasts in Public Places (ebook) (paperback), edited by Erica Lehrer, Monica Eileen Patterson, and Cynthia E. Milton. The second is the web-accessible museum tour of the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia curated by David Pilgrim.
Curating Difficult Knowledge is a collection of 10 essays exploring the complex facets of remembering and memorializing violent histories in public places and within public memory.
The book includes the following essays:
The authors discuss both the successes and the pitfalls of memory centers and heritage sites such as the Kigali Memorial Center devoted to remembering the Rwandan Genocide, the Kliptown Museum and its recognition of South African apartheid, the exhibition "We Were So Far Away”: The Inuit Experience of Residential Schools, and El Ojo que Llora memorial to Peru’s civil conflict. Although each author takes a unique approach to the subject of their inquiry, they are unified in questioning the validity of blind preservation or destruction as methods of dealing with “difficult knowledge”.
Curating Difficult Knowledge describes “difficult knowledge” as knowledge that “[...] does not fit. It therefore induces a breakdown in experience, forcing us to confront the possibility that the conditions of our lives and the boundaries of our collective selves may be quite different from how we normally, reassuringly think of them.” The objects that represent difficult knowledge are multi-layered, and our responses to them as craftspeople, teachers, and curators can affect their potency, ability to harm, and potential to heal.
One such potent example of utilizing painful objects as tools for learning and building empathy is the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris State University in Michigan. The museum’s founder and curator David Pilgrim states that the museum’s horrifying and gut-wrenching display of racist objects "is all about teaching, not a shrine to racism" and that it aims to "to get people to think deeply” about their role in dismantling white supremacist structures.
In keeping with this mission, the Jim Crow Museum has recently digitized their collection into a web-accessible 3D model. Given the current situation with COVID-19 and the closure of schools, I felt that this digital exhibition may be a useful tool for teachers this semester. While it remains unsafe to visit physical museums, perhaps this virtual experience could take the place of an in-person museum tour in order to spark discussions around race, memory, and object-making.
This week we’re excited to share The Fashion and Race Database with you. Founded by Kimberly M. Jenkins, the project’s principal researcher, The Fashion and Race Database grew out of Jenkins’ experiences teaching fashion history and theory, and her disillusionment with the lack of diversity in resources for teaching courses in fashion. What originated as The Fashion and Race Syllabus, Jenkins’ collaborative project with scholar Rikki Byrd, has evolved into the current database (relaunched in early July), with the central goal of amplifying BIPOC scholarship and histories in the fashion industry. In addition to the ongoing support the database offers to established BIPOC writers, they also aim to support diverse futures in the fashion industry by offering publishing opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students.
The database is comprehensive, and serves a multitude of functions for fashion designers, students, educators, creative professionals, and scholars alike, with plenty of offerings for those more casually interested in fashion as well. You can subscribe to the database using the subscription box found at the bottom of each page. You can also support their work directly by donating to the database here.
The site is beautifully designed and easy to navigate, but if you are looking for a place to start, I’ve taken the liberty of compiling a list of my favorite features below.
Among the many features of the database are:
If you’ve found yourself on this site, it’s likely because you have an interest in and dedication to social justice. In the weeks since the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, we have found ourselves in the midst of a global uprising for racial justice unlike any we’ve ever seen before. I write this post on July 10th in Denver, CO where daily protests for racial and social justice continue. The New York Times has stated this is likely the largest movement in U.S. history, citing that between 15 and 26 million individuals participated in protests across the nation 
In addition to physical demonstrations, social media platforms have been flooded with resources for educating oneself on topics such as systemic racism, the case for police and prison abolition, and Indigenous rights. These include suggested readings, podcast, lectures, actions, talking points, businesses to support and businesses to boycott, etc. This information has dominated Instagram stories and twitter feeds over the last month. Putting aside the (very necessary) conversation about the phenomena of optical allyship  that social media perpetuates, we can’t negate the wonderful resources that have been elevated or developed to support education (and reeducation) on these topics.
This week I would like to highlight a new section in our database where some of the social media based resources on Black identity and the arts can be found: Bibliographies + Databases. If you find yourself on the website hoping to dig into the intersection of social justice and craft in a more general capacity, I might suggest starting here.
Give these folks a follow, soak up their knowledge, financially support their efforts if you can, and join us in educating yourself.
@BlackCraftspeopleDA on Instagram
Black Craftspeople Digital Archive is dedicated to telling the stories of Black Craftspeople and the objects they created. They have a website that, though not fully launched, does include a syllabus/reading list.
@ablackhistoryofart on Instagram was developed by Alayo Akinkugbe, a second year History of Art student at Cambridge University, and “highlights the overlooked black artists, sitters, curators and thinkers from Art History and the present day”.
Be sure to check out the reading list they developed!
@BlackArtLibrary on Instagram is “a growing collection of books intended to be an educational resource on visual art by Black artists” It is curated by Asmaa Walton.
The Black Art library “is intended to be an educational resource to share within the Black community and beyond. The Black Art Library will be eventually be a physical space that acts as a non-lending library based in … Detroit, MI.”
If you would like to support Walton's efforts you can find a fundraiser here: https://gf.me/u/yfygk7
The Photographer’s Green Book (@photogreenbook on Instagram) was created by Jay Simple to gather “resources for an IDEA-Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Advocacy.”
Though this account exists on Instagram, much of the resources can be found in a shared folder that Simple created.
“Mapping the Landscape of Socially Engaged Artistic Practice” by Alexis Frasz & Holly Sidford could be accurately described as the necessary how-to guide for creating ethical, purposeful, socially engaged art (SEA). This report and its accompanying website are based on a comprehensive defintion of socially engaged art that describes its characteristics and how it differs from traditional studio art in intentions and aesthetics. This definition is followed by insight about the artworld structures that make the pursuit of socially engaged art challenging. The authors do not shy away from addressing how traditional grants, residencies, and arts education programs fail to foster constructive and ethical social engagement, and fail to financially support social practice artists.
Beyond offering an analysis of social engagement place in the art world, this document provides perhaps the most comprehensive guide yet to positioning one’s art in terms of social engagement, as well as guiding its readers through the ethical challenges of such work. In order to situate an artist’s practice or an individual piece within the scope of socially engaged and studio art, Frasz and Sidford provide 9 variations/scales upon which each piece of SEA can be placed. The variations are as follows:
Aesthetics: Social → Fine
Role / function of the artist: Facilitator → Creative agent
Origin of the artist: Rooted in → From outside
Definition of the “work”: Process → Product
Direction of influence: Inward → Outward
Origination of the work: Community generated → Outside generated
Place: Place specific → Non-place specific
Issue: Single issue → Multi-issue
Duration: Short term → Long term
These variations and their descriptions have the potential to assist those interested in craft for social justice to consider the intentions of their work, and whether or not those intentions are being portrayed. Importantly, the authors stress that no one position on each scale is necessarily the “better” one, but that each project will require different positioning in order to be effective and ethical. The ethics of creating responsible socially engaged work are explored in the latter half of the document, and should be required reading for anyone wishing to insert their work into the social landscape beyond themselves and artistic institutions.
For anyone wishing to start creating craft for social justice, or for experienced social practice artists looking for more clarity in their work, this document provides vital information and experiences from artists throughout the field, all working to create progressive, ethical work.
This resource can be found in our "Writings/Documents" database or #artmakingchange.org
The free pdf can be viewed and downloaded here.
This week's highlighted resource is Cathy Hannabach's podcast Imagine Otherwise. Hannabach is the founder of Ideas on Fire, an organization that works to provide interdisciplinary social justice scholars with the tools to create a more just world. Ideas on Fire provides workshops, career guidance, and publishing help for those who hope to leverage writing and artistic scholarship for social justice.
Through Imagine Otherwise, Hannabach engages with an array of artists, academics, social activists, and community organizers to discuss issues relevant to social justice in art. Some of the episodes focus on using artistic practice to combat social issues, some dive into issues relating to curation and exhibition spaces, and others focus more on academic institutions and how they interact with social engagement. Imagine Otherwise is not strictly a craft podcast, but instead reaches across artistic disciplines to engage practitioners hoping to achieve justice by altering culture. When it comes to addressing social justice in craft education, the conversations recorded through Imagine Otherwise provide a comprehensive background on the interactions between art, academia, and social justice which helps to contextualize similar, future academic endeavors.
The podcast is available on the Imagine Otherwise Website, Spotify, Stitcher, iTunes and most other podcast platforms.
Some episodes to start with:
-11: Micha Cárdenas
"How can we retool science and technology to serve marginalized groups? Micha Cárdenas discusses using digital media and wearable technologies to protect Black and Latinx communities from police violence, how art can enable survival, and how queer and trans communities of color are imagining and creating more just worlds."
-40: Kālewa Correa, Lawrence-Minh Bùi Davis, and Adriel Luis
"What if we designed art exhibitions around social justice community organizing principles? How can collaboration among artists, curators, scholars, and participants generate a radical art experience? Curators Kālewa Correa, Lawrence-Minh Bùi Davis, and Adriel Luis share their experiences curating the ‘Ae Kai Culture Lab, July 7–9 in Honolulu, Hawai’i."
-28: Zach McDowell
"Zach McDowell reviews the relationship between the open access movement and other social justice movements, how decreasing the “digital divide” isn’t the only thing needed for true media justice, and what it really means when people say “information wants to be free.”"
This week’s highlighted resource is Pablo Helguera’s “Education for Socially Engaged Art: A Materials and Techniques Handbook”, a comprehensive guide to building a strong socially engaged art practice. Going far beyond platitudes about community building or art as a political statement, Helguera discerns between purely symbolic social/political work and what he defines as “socially engaged art” (SEA). Unlike symbolic work that seeks merely to represent social issues and serve as a stand in for social action, Helguera defines SEA as work that engages with a particular community in a concrete, non-hypothetical, non-imagined way.
Building upon this differentiation, Helguera provides guidelines for how SEA projects can be achieved through community involvement, navigating difficult social situations, effective communication, conversational skills, the use of pedagogical structures, and differentiating the goals of social work and SEA. While Helguera focuses primarily on methods of socially engaged art outside of craft disciplines and questions craft’s place within SEA, this is a must read book for any artist, educator, or student who is interested in achieving concrete social engagement through artistic means. If you find yourself frustrated by symbolic political statements in “activist art”, or have found yourself questioning whether a career in social work would be more effective at achieving social change, this is the handbook for you.
This resource can be found in our "Writings/Documents" database
A free pdf of the book is available here
A hardcopy of the book can be purchased here
As we add to our database and source new resources from the craft community, we will be posting "must see" resources on this page. Highlighted resources are ones that we view as particularly vital, due to their depth of information and original solutions to the issues that face us as activists and craft artists.
Highlighted resources will be posted bi-weekly and will be accompanied by an explanation of what makes that resource vital for achieving social justice through craft. We will occasionally include suggestions and recommendations from other members of the community.